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Australian legal profession over 90k strong

The sixth National Profile of Solicitors report has been published, revealing a number of interesting statistics across the Australian legal profession, which now stands at over 90,000 practising lawyers.

user iconLauren Croft 05 May 2023 Big Law
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The 2022 National Profile of Solicitors, compiled by consultancy firm Urbis and released on Friday (5 May), presents a demographic picture of the legal profession in Australia and how it has evolved over time, compiling data provided by state and territory law societies and regulators.

The report highlights that the profession is continuing to grow and become more female and notes other changes in the profession since the first National Profile of Solicitors report more than a decade ago. The legal profession in Australia has experienced a 57 per cent increase in growth since 2011.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly ahead of the release of the report, chief executive officer of the Law Society of NSW Sonja Stewart said that it was especially encouraging to see this growth after a turbulent two years following — and during — COVID-19.


“There’s a growth in the profession, there’s a growth in the legal industry, we can see that through gross fee income, particularly over the pandemic. So, we know that the law is still a rewarding and valuable career,” she said.

“And that’s what this is showing; it’s an 8 per cent increase in the number of solicitors since 2020, the last time we collected that data, which was over that global pandemic period.”

Size of the profession

The profession currently stands at 90,329 solicitors nationally — the largest it’s ever been.

According to the last report, based on 2020 data and published in July 2021, the size of the profession had increased by 45 per cent since 2011. This year marks a 57 per cent increase since 2011, and an increase of 6,686 since 2020.

While increases were observed across all states and territories, the most notable increases since 2011 were in the ACT (+111 per cent) and Tasmania (+99 per cent).

South Australia experienced the smallest amount of growth for the same 11-year period — 14 per cent. The largest proportion of solicitors was in NSW (42 per cent), followed by Victoria (25 per cent) and Queensland (16 per cent). Northern Territory and Tasmania both host 1 per cent of the nation’s solicitors, with the Northern Territory’s number of solicitors growing by 34 per cent.

According to the report, the national growth rate has also fluctuated then steadied over time, from 15 per cent between 2011 and 2014, to 8 per cent between 2014 and 2016, eight per cent between 2016 and 2018, nine per cent between 2018 and 2020, and then 8 per cent growth between 2020 and 2022. 

Further, no jurisdictions experienced negative growth between 2020 and 2022.


Fifty-five per cent of solicitors across the country are female, with women making up the majority of every legal sector for the first time. The trend of female solicitors outnumbering their male counterparts was a trend first observed in 2018 — and since 2011, eighty-six per cent of those entering the profession have been female, compared to 32 per cent of men.

In 2022, all states and territories across Australia continued to have a greater proportion of female solicitors than male solicitors. The Northern Territory and ACT had notably higher female representation (61 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively), which is driven by the greater proportion of government solicitors in those jurisdictions.

Queensland and Western Australia came the closest in terms of male-female representation, with 48 per cent of solicitors being male in both states compared to 52 per cent being female. Tasmania has experienced the highest amount of growth in female solicitors (138 per cent), followed by the ACT (134 per cent).

Across all states and jurisdictions, the number of male solicitors has increased by 26 per cent, compared to a 67 per cent increase in female solicitors.


Since 2011, the mean age of Australian solicitors has been 42 — a trend that remained stable last year. The mean age for women is 39 years, while it is 46 years for men.

However, since 2014, there have been large increases in the proportion of solicitors at both ends of the age spectrum. The proportion of solicitors aged 65 years and older have increased by 77 per cent, while the proportion of solicitors aged 24 years and younger has grown by 34 per cent. 

Almost half of all solicitors were aged between 25 and 39 years (47 per cent). Solicitors in the Northern Territory and ACT were slightly younger (42 years old), and those in NSW and South Australia were slightly older (43 years old).

Two in five female solicitors were aged under 35 (40 per cent), compared to just over a quarter of male solicitors (29 per cent). Conversely, 13 per cent of all male solicitors were aged 65 years and older compared to only 3 per cent of females. Although slightly higher than the previous report’s numbers (2 per cent), showing that women are still leaving the profession much earlier than men.

Years since admission

Two in five (40 per cent) of Australian solicitors have been admitted for 15 years or more, while 40 per cent had been admitted for five years or less. This has remained relatively stable since 2011, with only small shifts.

Across jurisdictions, the largest proportion of solicitors admitted for 15 years or more were in South Australia (45 per cent) and NSW (43 per cent). The largest proportion of solicitors who had been admitted for one year or less were in Victoria (18 per cent) and the Northern Territory (14 per cent).

More than half of all female solicitors had been admitted for 10 years or less (53 per cent) compared to 41 per cent of male solicitors, a trend consistent with the over-representation of female solicitors in younger age brackets. 

There was a larger proportion of solicitors admitted for 15 years or more working in the corporate legal sector (47 per cent) compared to private practice (41 per cent), the government legal sector (34 per cent) and the community legal sector (23 per cent). The proportion of those who had been admitted for one year or less was highest in the community legal sector (15 per cent), followed by private practice (12 per cent) and the government legal sector (11 per cent). Only 6 per cent of those in the corporate legal sector had been admitted for one year or less.

Indigenous solicitors

Data has been provided on Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander solicitors since 2014.

In 2020, there were 632 ATSI-identifying lawyers in the Australian legal profession — a number that has slightly increased this year to 749, which is still only 0.8 per cent of all practising solicitors. The states with the highest number of ATSI-identifying solicitors were the Northern Territory (2.7 per cent), followed by NSW and WA (both 0.9 per cent).

Nationwide, 55 per cent of ATSI-identifying lawyers are women, and 45 per cent are men.


More than half of all Australian practitioners were practising in the nation’s cities (56 per cent), with 31 per cent practising in a suburban location and 9 per cent practising in a country or rural location.

Tasmania had the highest proportion of solicitors working in a city area (82 per cent), and the ACT had the highest proportion of solicitors working in suburban areas (49 per cent). In addition, the Northern Territory had the highest proportion of solicitors working in country/rural areas (18 per cent). 

Sixty-two per cent of young lawyers (i.e., five years or less PQE) practice in cities compared to the total profession (56 per cent). The number of lawyers in all areas has risen, except for lawyers practising in suburban areas, which interestingly dropped by 399 since the last report.

Since 2011, the strongest employment growth has occurred in suburban areas (+85 per cent), followed by city (+67 per cent) and overseas locations (+63 per cent). In contrast, country and rural areas have experienced little growth over the same period (+14 per cent).

Types of firms

Over two-thirds of Australian solicitors work in private practice (67 per cent), which was consistent across all jurisdictions except the ACT and Northern Territory, where there were larger proportions of solicitors working in the government legal sector (49 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively). 

The community and government legal sectors had the highest representation of females, with over two-thirds of all practitioners being female (70 per cent and 69 per cent, respectively). For the first time, females represented half of all private practice solicitors.

Since 2011, all practice sectors have experienced growth, with the government legal sector experiencing the strongest growth (+108 per cent), followed by the corporate legal sector (+104 per cent) and private practice (+40 per cent).

As at October 2022, there were 16,514 private law practices in Australia, up from 16,393 in 2020. Most were sole practices (84 per cent), followed by law practices with two to four principals (9 per cent). Higher proportions of sole practices were observed in Victoria (91 per cent), South Australia (86 per cent) and Western Australia (86 per cent). Across Australia, there were only 70 law practices with 21 or more principals. Additionally, while practices with 21 or more principals represent less than 1 per cent of total practices, they employ 19 per cent of solicitors in Australia.

Western Australia had the largest proportion of solicitors in sole practices (51 per cent), followed by South Australia (47 per cent) and Victoria (43 per cent). Victoria and NSW (19 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively) had the largest proportions of solicitors working in law practices of 40 or more principals.

More to come.